From Worst to Best in Two Seasons: Oakland Oaks
Credit: Ron Riesterer (1968) - Mercury News
The Oakland Oaks would only be a part of the ABA for two seasons (1967-69). In their first season, the Oaks went 22-56 (28.2 W/L%) and ranked dead last. In the following season, the Oaks went 60-18 (76.9 W/L%) and finished with the then best regular-season record in ABA history. Not only did they have the best regular-season record, but they ended up winning the Championship!
So... how did the Oakland Oaks go from one of the worst to one of the best teams in the ABA within two seasons? Let's start with the Oaks' origins.
The Oakland Oaks were formed in 1967 by Pat Boone, Kenneth Davidson, and Dennis Murphy for $30,000. Accounting for inflation, it would have only cost the three $245,000 to buy the team in 2021. That's a steal!
Even though $245,000 for a team is exceptionally underpriced, Boone, the majority owner of the Oaks, was losing money. Even in the Oaks Championship season, the team was only bringing in 2,800 fans per game. Even the Orlando Magic, one of the smallest market teams in the NBA, brings almost 18,000 fans per game.
Continuing with Boone, you may have heard of his name as he was a famous singer in the 1950-60s. I have never listened to any of his songs, but he was the second-biggest charting artist behind Elvis Presley at one point. Here are some of the songs he has made:
I'll Be Home
Love Letters in the Sand
I Almost Lost My Mind
Ain't That a Shame
Before becoming the owner of the Oakland Oaks, Boone owned a team in the Hollywood Studio League known as the Cooga Moogas. Boone was such a basketball enthusiast that at the ages of 80-84, he played for the Virginia Creepers in the National Senior Games.
Boone wasn't the only one that has an interesting backstory. Dennis Murphy was a sports entrepreneur that helped co-found numerous sports leagues:
American Basketball Association
World Hockey Association
World Team Tennis
Roller Hockey International
In addition, Murphy was also the originator of the three-point line in the ABA and the Slam Dunk Contest!
Kenneth Davidson isn't as interesting as the other two, but he was the co-owner of an ABA team, so that in itself is already really fascinating.
As for the Oakland Oaks, the team's logo consisted of an oak tree and an acorn. The team was most likely named after Oak Trees as they were an integral part of the Californian ecology back then. Oakland also used to be an oak woodland before the Spanish colonized the area.
The Oakland Oaks' biggest competitor was a team from a different league, the San Francisco Warriors. This was because the Oaks had taken the Warriors' best player, Rick Barry. The Oaks gave Barry a deal of a lifetime to play for the team.